Water for all: young Christians study water advocacy
- WATER FOR ALL: YOUNG CHRISTIANS STUDY DEFENSE OF THIS PRECIOUS RESOURCE
By Annegret Kapp (*)
Free photos available, see below
"Water has no colour, no race, no nationality, it is the same all over the
world," according to Rania Flavie Tourma, an Orthodox Christian from Syria.
So to her, it was perfectly natural that people from around the world
gathered near Geneva, Switzerland at the Ecumenical Water Network (EWN)
Summer School on Water to unite in defense of this natural resource.
While water is vital for all, Tourma and others attending this unique summer
school know all too well that access to water, and the awareness of how
precious it is, could hardly be more unequally distributed. As Christians,
the 22 young men and women who met at the World Council of Churches (WCC)
Ecumenical Institute in Bossey for eight days of intense learning about
water issues feel compelled to speak out against this injustice.
Their professional backgrounds were as diverse as the 18 countries and six
different continents they came from. Their presentations on water issues in
their countries really complemented the lectures by international experts on
water management, advocacy and development.
Summer school student Roderick Chukwuemeka Oji from Nigeria started his
presentation holding up a small plastic pouch of water which is sold on the
streets of Lagos for five Naira, less then five cents US. "In my country, we
call this pure water," he said.
However, the content of these packets is far from safe to drink, the law
student and Presbyterian youth leader explained. All too often the water
that is sealed in this transparent plastic comes from an uncontrolled source
and bears a made-up license number. No wonder the elites prefer bottled
water from abroad, he said.
Oji was not the only one who reported on poor drinking water supplies in a
country blessed with rivers and abundant rain. Participants from Rwanda,
Honduras, Armenia and Lesotho all spoke of the unequal distribution of a
resource that is not so scarce.
Another student, Packiaraj Asirvatham from India, told of an apparently
successful campaign four years ago in which several thousand local people
rallied against the construction of a soft drinks factory in Gangaikondan,
India, which was going to take unsustainable amounts of water out of a river
which the whole district relied on.
While the campaign was successful at the time, the 27-year-old pastor of the
Church of South India warned that vigilance remained necessary even after
what seemed like a victory. Just a few days before leaving to attend the
ecumenical summer school he had returned to Gangaikondan only to find that
the bottling unit was now up and running.
Lead role for youth
Youth have an important role to play in the preservation of water according
to Oji. The more established leaders, even within the church, often do not
address these issues.
Lilit Babajanyan from Armenia added that if she wanted to do something to
counterbalance the political influence of rich landowners in the fight over
Armenia's Lake Sevan the best starting point for her was her personal
network of friends - a group of young Christians.
When the concern for creation brings together Christians aged 20 to 30, they
will of course not limit themselves to academic exercises. In between
sessions they shared about their homes and cultures and taught each other
songs from their home churches.
The drawings and hip-hop lyrics posted on the Ecumenical Water Network's
summer blog <http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=6116> also bear witness to their
Creativity was one of the criteria for choosing candidates for the summer
school because of its value in bringing to life powerful biblical stories
about Christ's promise of justice and the "living water" of faith.
"How can Americans hold water as sacred when it is wasted away every day?"
Kelly Forbush, a theology student from the United Church of Christ in the
USA, wrote in a blog entry about her reflections from one of the morning
Bible studies. "Water comes in such abundance in America - almost all people
can receive clean water anytime they want."
One possible answer to Forbush's question came through the water-themed
worship service which the summer school participants prepared for the
Lutheran congregation of Geneva. With prayer, songs and acting the service
created links between the biblical imagery of the "living water" and the
modern day reality of many people not having access to water.
The first generation of summer school "alumni", whether they came from the
privileged regions of North America and Europe, where a constant supply of
clean water is taken for granted, or whether they are faced with its
scarcity in their every day lives, will not forget the need for water is
shared by all.
And they will not keep to themselves the realization that consumer patterns
in their own communities - concerning energy, meat, traffic and many other
things - affect the water supply of people living on the other side of the
As they traveled back to their home countries in early August, some already
had concrete ideas about how to spread what they have learned, for example
performing plays about the water crisis in public places or beverage stores.
Others think about organizing regional summer schools. For knowledge, just
like faith, multiplies when it is shared.
(*) Annegret Kapp, WCC web editor, is a member of the Evangelical Church in
More information about the Ecumenical Water Network:
Video clips from the EWN summer school:
Listen to comments by participants of the EWN summer school (mp3 format, 3.9
### SIDEBAR ###
Christians raising awareness on water
The EWN Summer School on Water 2008 was organized by the Ecumenical Water
Network, 28 July to 4 August, in order to educate a new generation of
Christian leaders in awareness raising for the global water crisis.
The participants heard from water experts with international human rights
and development organizations about causes and consequences of the crisis as
well as ways to tackle it. But they also learned about ways to take up the
issue in their home churches and Christian youth networks.
It was the first time that young Christians of different denominations
including Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants came together for an
international summer school on water.
The Ecumenical Water Network is an initiative of churches, Christian
organizations and movements working on people's access to water around the
world and community-based solutions to the water crisis. Its objective is to
bring forward a common Christian witness in the debate on water issues. The
World Council of Churches hosts the network's secretariat and helps to
facilitate cooperation among the partners involved.
World Council of Churches - Feature
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For immediate release - 12/08/2008 10:37:22
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Additional information: Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363
The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and
service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches
founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox,
Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in
over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.
The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, from the Methodist Church
in Kenya. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.